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The Indian Paan bazaar, Old Delhi

From Banarsi to Maghai to Awadhi, all kinds of betel leaf preparation as in the Indian paan are enjoyed for equally varied reasons. Like wine connoisseurs know their wines, paan connoisseurs know what their favourite paan is all about.

Paan preparation

Paan bazaar, an alley market in Sadar Bazaar, offers a glimpse of Indian culture in Old Delhi. In India, paan has been playing an important role in the social life and customs of people for hundreds of years. In the court of the Mughal kings and others rulers, the betel leaf or paan was offered as a part of hospitality, friendship and love. This bazaar is well known for paan and its products that attract a large number of customers from across the city.

The bazaar has more than 100 paan shops. There are at least 50 varieties of paan available at paan bazaar from rupees two to rupees 400 per doli. A doli contains 200-250 paan. You can get a Golta Madrasi paan, Bangal paan, Banarasi paan, Jagatnathi Desi paan, Dholak Pakistani paan, Hydrabadi paan or Afsana paan on the spot. The best betel leaf is the ’Magahi’ variety (from the Magadha region) grown near Patna, in Bihar.

Every paan-lover in India has personal favourites. Maghai pan being the most famous among them. Amitabh Bacchan's rendition of Khai ke paan banaras wala, khul jaye band akal ka tala, is exactly how paan-lovers praise their favourite chew. It refreshes the mind, they say.

Paan is such a hot favourite, and cultivation of betel leaves such a tedious affair that one needs to watch out for quality. Paan, however is available all over India, in all its regional avatars.

For authentic and mouth-watering taste, they use sachi paan leaves, chuna, gulkand, clove, cherry, flavoured saunf, masala cherry, sugar, artificial sweetener, menthol, date, saffron, condiments, sada bahar, dilkush, white gold, Tan Sen, pistachio, rose katri, anis, raisin, coconut, chaman bahar, coriander powder, jaggery, permitted food colours, cardamom and different flavours in different proportion and in different varieties as ingredients.

A visit to any region in India is incomplete without a taste of the local paan-beera. And top of the list is Paan Bazaar in Old Delhi. Must visit! Read More

Vedic chants of India for wellness and peace

The album, 'Chants of India' by Music Maestro Ravi Shankar is a great introduction to Indian prayers in tune with Classical Hindustani Music.

Pandit Ravi Shankar

Sanskrit chants from the Vedas, Upanishads, and other texts have been handed down through the centuries by Traditional Scholars in India. In these renditions, Ravi Shankar reconfigured existing forms and composed new numbers to convey the spiritual force of these Sanskrit mantras and chants.

Oftentimes, it's the repetitive use of mantras that calls upon the internal spiritual self. And, it's the primordial, and shortest, sacred sound Aum or Om that is used before or after each prayer.

These chants, Shankar notes, "were mainly prayers for the well being of the universe, physical, mental, and spiritual selves of everyone, without pollution, turmoil, illness, discomfort, and misery of any kind and for overall Shanti (peace)."
The following Sanskrit prayer sung by Ravi Shankar echoes the message that transgresses cultures, boundaries, and even time.
Bhoomimangalam. Udakamangalam.
Agnimangalam. Vaayumangalam.
Gaganamangalam. Sooryamangalam.
Chandramangalam. Jagat Mangalam.
Jeevamangalam. Dehamangalam.
Manomangalam. Aatmamangalam.
Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu.
Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu.
Sarvamangalam Bhavatu Bhavatu Bhavatu.

May there be tranquility on earth, on water, in fire, in the wind, in the sky, in the sun, on the moon, on our planet, in all living beings, in the body, in the mind, and in the spirit. May that tranquility be everywhere, and in everyone.
This is the essence of Vedic chants: invocation of well-being for all existence, because we are all interdependent :-) Read More

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